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Research Methodology

October 28th, 2005 · No Comments · PhD Research

The research methodology that I will use falls roughly within the post-positivist school which combines both quantitative and qualitative methods to test deductive hypotheses which are refined over the course of the research as data is collected, analyzed and interpreted.

Phase 1

The first phase of the research is the statement of a topic of interest, establishing the research methodology, completing the University of Amsterdam administrative requirements and defining some initial, general hypotheses:

Initial, General Hypotheses

  1. The accessibility, relevance and usability of archival records managed by institutional memory organizations can be improved through:

    1. the adaptation of new information and communication technologies and online practices from other types of Internet-based systems and communities into online archives access systems.
    2. the integration of Archives user study findings directly into the functional requirements and architectures of online access systems.
    3. the development of a generic, logical architecture for online archives access systems that is based on both open technology standards and archival standards and best practices.
  2. The management of personal and family archival collections can be improved by adapting generic, logical architectures for archives management systems used by institutional memory organizations to the consumer-grade products and services used at home by private individuals.
  3. By using common logical architectures with open standards and protocols, the online access systems of public archival collections can be integrated and synchronized with personal and family archival collections.
  4. By integrating archival content from institutional online access systems with archival content stored in personal and family archival collections:
    1. collective memories will be enhanced
    2. new communities of memory will be created
    3. the value and meaning of archival materials will change

Phase 2

The second phase of the research includes a literature and technology review that establishes a more detailed definition of the research topic, the theoretical framework, and the variables that will affect the analysis and interpretation of the research problem.

The second phase will refine the initial, general hypotheses to establish specific operational hypotheses that may be tested in the next phase of research.

Phase 3

The third phase of research will generate and collect data using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

The primary quantitative method in this research will be systems development which is a problem-solving method, typically applied to the development of computer information systems, that breaks a complex problem into pieces, designs a solution for each piece, and then integrates the solutions into a complete, operational system.

There are many system development methodologies (e.g. Structured Analysis and Design, Rational Unified Process, etc.) but, generally, each of these consists of the following high-level processes: requirements analysis, architecture design, system development and integration, system testing, system deployment, and system maintenance.

As a research method, “the systems development approach denotes a way to perform research through exploration and integration of available technologies to produce an artefact, system or system prototype. System development focuses on the theory testing, more than theory building aspects of research, allowing a smooth progression from development to evaluation. It could be thought of as proof-by-demonstration…A systems development methodology comprises three major steps: concept development; system building; and system evaluation. The concept building stage involves some theory building, where the theory can be illustrated by a system.” (1)

The systems development methodology can be used to design and implement prototype systems of both institutional online access systems, personal and family archives management systems, and any systems that are used to integrate these two. Test cases can be designed to prove empirically whether the functional requirements are met in a given system prototype.

At the same time, qualitative methods such as surveys, focus groups or interviews will have to be used to determine the level of quality improvement, if any, is deemed to have occurred for the online access systems and personal archives management technologies that are prototyped.

For the fourth and final research domain, some ethnographic research methods might be required to interpret whether and how collective memories may have been enhanced or how new communities of memory have been created and to describe their nature and form.

Lastly, historical research in the field of archival science might be required to determine whether and how there is any potential effect on the inherent value and meaning of records by using new enabling technologies to integrate public and private collections and to improve the usability of archival materials.

Phase 4

The data generated and collected in Phase 3 will be analyzed and interpreted. It will be determined whether the general and operational hypotheses have been refuted or supported. Based on this analysis, a final thesis will be drafted that frames the research findings as some general principles and rules.

Phase 5

Defend thesis to University of Amsterdam doctoral committee.

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1) Burstein, Frada. System Development in Information Systems Research in Research Methods for Students, Academics and Professionals: Information Management and Systems. 2nd ed. (Centre for Information Studies, 2002).